Rocky Mountain Roady

Some sights of today’s Rocky Mountain road trip. What a beautiful world we live in. What a beautiful country I live in. Mother nature is stunning.

Every time that I drive Icefields Parkway, it never ceases to amaze me. It is the most stunning highway that I’ve possibly ever driven. Honestly, I always bug my friends and family to take this drive. There really is nothing else like it on earth.

Moose Lake (at the foot of the mountains – hence… less snow)
Athabasca Glacier. (I actually was here four months ago to the day – the difference in photos is amazing, I should get that photo off my phone.)
The road to the foot of the Columbia Icefields Glacier.
Bow Lake – still covered in ice on May 15!

The Canadian Rocky Mountains provide some of the most gorgeous scenery on the earth. Keep changing channels… you won’t find sights like this on any tv set.

Toronto, I love you.

Toronto, I love you. I really do.

I love the way that you look so beautiful, even on a cloudy day. I love your unfailing courtesy, even in the most dense of crowds. Thank you for welcoming me with such ease and treating me as though I belonged, though I’m sure I stood out like a sore thumb.

Thank you for allowing me to escape, for giving me the freedom to by myself, for allowing me the opportunity to truly feel whole. Though it was but a quick visit, the time I spent with you meant a whole lot more to me than anything I could explain to my family.

It’s funny, you know, as we grow we change so much. Complete facets of who we thought we were become moments passed, memories faded and desires forgotten. It’s almost as though, one day when you weren’t looking, all of your goals changed. I have such a love for the West Coast, for the mountains, for the Pacific Ocean and the rainforest, and now, for a city in the 4,000 miles away.

While I’m still very much the same me that I’ve always been, I feel calmer. I feel more relaxed about life, more in tune with who I am and what I am capable of. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to find that within myself.

Toronto, thank you for reminding me that kindness and courtesy are the two best gifts we can give strangers. Thank you for the Eaton Centre, having all of my favourite places inside of one building was extremely convenient for me and not so convenient for my wallet.

I love downtown traffic. I love that everyone has somewhere to go, and that everyone courteously waits for one another at traffic lights and crosswalks and in parkades. It’s a pretty glaring reminder that patience is a virtue, and that we’re all important… to one another… when it matters most.

Thank you to the kind man who helped me find my car when I was walking the wrong direction down Yonge Street looking for it. Thank you to the kind woman who told me that I had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Complimenting a stranger is a sure fire way of making their whole day. I don’t think we do that enough.

Toronto, you’re noisy, but also somehow completely serene. It’s a complexity that masks the simplicity of my heart, an oxymoron that showcases that things need not always make sense to work just the way it needs too.

Thank you for Lakeshore Drive, for the multi-million dollar homes that I know I’ll never own but love to tour anyway. And thank you for the coffee… the best coffee that I’ve ever had. Thank you for reminding a small-town soul like me that it’s a great big world full of wonder and amazement out there and that, if I really want it, I can reach out and grab it.

Toronto, I love you. I really do.

I travelled to the Honeymoon capital of the world… alone, and this is what happened.

Travelling alone is freeing. Truly.

I’ve often found that when I travel with people, I struggle to be able to do the things that I want to do. I cater to what the person I’m travelling with wants, and it always seems to happen that they won’t cater to what I want. As such, I find myself giving up on the things that I want and dealing with a sub-par trip when I know it could have been better.

This past week I tried something different. It’s something that I’ve read about, quite frequently, but never dared to do. I went solo-travelling.

Let me tell you, if you ever get the opportunity for solo travel, DO IT. DO IT and don’t ever second guess it.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

For me, Niagara Falls isn’t anywhere exotic. There were no beaches, no bikinis, no foreign folk speaking foreign languages (unless a Boston accent counts). But, the jaunt across Canada meant a great deal to me, being my first dive into solo travel.

I’ve always been fascinated by natural wonders. Mountains that reach the sky, forests that go on forever, beautiful pristine (untouched beaches) that stretch as far as they eye can see, these are the pieces to our world that make me feel obsolete in the very best way. I admire things that are the way they are, not because ‘man’ made them, but because nature made them that way.

Niagara Falls, formed naturally at the end of the last ice-age by the receding of glaciers, is located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. There are three falls, The Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The three combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America and has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres (160 ft).

The view from my hotel room on the 30th floor in the Tower Suites, Niagara Falls.
(The Horeshoe Falls are on the right, American Falls on the left of this photo)

The Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls.

When I was looking for a hotel in Niagara Falls, I knew that I wanted to stay on Fallsview Blvd. because I wanted to be as close to the falls as I could be. The Tower Hotel stood out to me online due to it’s odd shape compared to every other hotel on the strip. The Tower Hotel is a tall, skinny tower with rooms only on the 25th-30th floors.

The Hotel itself was quite basic. There was nothing overly fancy about it. The view from the hotel was exceptional, though. When you’re guaranteed a room on the 25th floor, or higher, there’s a fair chance you’re going to get an exceptional view. And, the view from The Tower Hotel did not disappoint .

*Point of note for booking hotels in Niagara Falls – on Thursday, Friday and Saturday hotel rooms cost (at least) $100 more per night than they do on Sunday – Wednesday. Purchasing a hotel room on ‘off-days’ (Sunday-Wednesday) will save you some big bucks when it comes to accommodations. And, if you can afford it, book a hotel on Fallsview Blvd. You won’t regret it.

The view from the Keg restaurant on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites, Niagara Falls.

The Food

One of the things I most wanted to do while I was there was eat at ‘The Keg’ in the Embassy Suites hotel. This Keg restaurant is pretty famous for it’s views, and for the fact that every table in that restaurant has been strategically set up to have a view of the falls. The restaurant sits on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel.

I called ahead and made a reservation for 7:30, asked if I could sit as close to the windows as possible and hoped for the best. And honestly, the view did not disappoint. Nor did the food. The Keg, known for it’s steak dinners, was very accommodating to my dietary needs, ensuring that my food was cooked separately as to have not touched any gluten, nor to have any dairy in it. I’m not a huge fan of red meat – only eating it once every blue moon – but this dinner was absolute perfection.

*Point of note for the Keg – While the restaurant is situated to have nice views from every table, if you call ahead and make a reservation you can get seated at the windows, where the seats point towards the falls. It’s a romantic setup, and there were a lot of people there on dates/anniversaries that night.

Walking along the falls edge on the Canadian side to view the light show.

The Light Show

The light show of Niagara Falls was something that I have been dying to see. After the sun sets, the illuminate different coloured lights onto the falls to create a light show, in representation of the charity they’re bringing attention to that evening.

I’ve seen incredible pictures of the light show online and always wanted to see it in person. So, I bundled myself up in warm clothes and wandered down to the falls at 10 pm to wander.

I ended up spending over two hours walking up and down the pathway alongside the falls. The Horseshoe Falls were illuminated in beautiful, rainbow arrangements, flashing on and off and the American Falls were illuminated in yellow. The lights themselves lit the pathway for walking, and, because it was so late at night, there were a lot less tourists on the path. (I guess people chose to just not venture out after dark)

Honestly, the night was so freeing. It was almost as though nothing else existed in the universe but me, there, in that space and time. Quite a few people stopped to talk to me along the way, many of them with Boston accents, but overall, the night was filled with the most peace that I have had in a long, long time. I just walked along the edge of the falls, listening to millions upon millions of gallons of water pouring over the edge, rushing down the river into the great lakes. Nature is incredible.

The Honeymoon Capital of the World

It’s worth noting that Niagara Falls’ claim to fame is that it is ‘The Honeymoon Capital of the World’. There are couples EVERYWHERE. Which, is adorable and sweet. If you’re painfully single, though, I could see it being a bit of a nuisance to you. It’s definitely not a place for the faint of heart.

I crossed paths with many a people who were wondering where my better half was, asking my why I was alone or why I didn’t have a man with me. While I know they were just being friendly and talkative, it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for next time. Maybe I’ll bring a man back with me next time. HAHA!

The Niagara Skywheel by night.

The Niagara Skywheel

The Niagara Skywheel is the largest ferris wheel in Canada that, at the top, reaches 175 feet in the air – providing truly breathtaking views of the Horseshoe and American Falls for the very reasonable price of $14 (adult ticket).

Having a love of ferris wheels, I actually wound up on the skywheel twice. Once, during the day, and a second time after the sun had set to see the light show from the top. To add to the list of romantic settings there are in Niagara Falls, the view from the top of the Skywheel is unmatched. Had I had someone to take with me, I am sure it would have been the perfect spot for that ‘romantic movie moment kiss’ if you know what I mean.

The Skywheel is located at the edge of what is kind of a theme park in Niagara Falls. To be honest, I didn’t really venture into the theme park. Things like bumper cars weren’t really going to provide me the peace I was searching for with my trip. But the Skywheel, that is a must-see stop.

Other touristy activities (that I didn’t take part in):

  • Helicopter tours of the Falls (I would have loved to do this, but it’s quite expensive)
  • Riverboat cruise of the Falls
  • Winery Tours (the southern portion of Ontario is known for being wine country, and there are a lot of Winery’s you can tour)
  • Skylon Tower (a rotating restaurant and observatory)
  • Marine Land

General Tips:

  • Parking at hotels is EXPENSIVE. Just two blocks up from the Falls you can find parking lots that charge $10 for 24 hours. If you choose to park your car with the hotel, it’s going to cost you anywhere from $40-$120 per day/night.
  • Take warm clothes with you, for night. The mist of the falls can make it feel a lot cooler out than the temperature actually is.
  • Niagara Falls has a 13% tourist tax that exists solely within it’s boundaries. Be prepared to pay more in tax while visiting.
  • There are tourist markups the price of virtually EVERYTHING. Something as simple as your coffee at Starbucks can be $2-4 more when purchasing it at Niagara Falls. Those extra expenses add up quickly, so be prepared.
  • If you book a ‘city-view’ hotel room, there’s still a good chance that you can see the falls from your hotel room, anyway. The reasoning for this is because many of the hotels are built diagonally facing the falls, as to be seen from three sides – instead of just one. So, if you’re looking at room prices and you’re worried about the price of a ‘Fallsview’ room, a city view room might provide you just what you need.
  • Though there are towns on both sides of the river, I noticed that the Canadian side was filled mostly with Americans. I think this is largely due to the fact that the view from the falls is sooooo much better on the Canadian side of the border. While there are attractions on the American side, I’m a little biased in saying that you’ll enjoy yourself more on the Canadian side of the border.
  • Make friends! There are so many wonderful people in town. I crossed paths with so many American tourists who were so excited to talk to me when I told them I was Canadian. One, from Ohio, even gave me his email address. He says that he’s travelling to Vancouver this summer and wants me to provide him some tips to make his trip amazing. I mean, sure, why not? There are nice people everywhere, but making friends on vacation can just make it seem so much more memorable.

Overall

The trip was incredible. It was everything that I had hoped it would be and so much more. I went in search of some peace of mind, calm and adventure and I found it. All of it. I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of thinking.

I have so many plans for my life that have become so clouded and convoluted the past few months with everything that has gone on. Being able to travel on my own and really stop to think about what my goals are and where I am going with my life was an invaluable experience to me.

ALSO – I survived! Not only that but I thrived. I looked after myself just fine, didn’t get into any trouble, have any issues or struggle at all. I was seriously doubting my abilities to do so prior to leaving, so the fact that everything went so smoothly for me was a huge relief.

I’m ready to go on my next adventure. And honestly, I’m somewhat already planning it.

Niagara Falls, thank you. Thank you for your beauty, your hospitality, and the peace of mind that you gave in just a few short days. I felt a great sense of calm being there, which meant a lot to me. It was just what I needed at this point in time and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I highly, highly recommend solo travel to anyone who has been thinking about it or wanting to go somewhere. Going on your own allows you to do things on your terms and choose your own itinerary. You don’t get wrapped up in the likes of what your travel companion wants, so the trip becomes solely about your desires and inspirations. It’s an empowering feeling, and one that I will seek more of in the future.

Set goals and make radical changes.

I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

‘What do you want out of life?’

I’m actually asked this question quite frequently. Especially in the past four months.

Genuinely, I want adventure. I want to be able to stop and think ‘I can’t believe this is my life’. I want to do things that I never ever thought I could do. I want to go everywhere, see everything and meet everyone. I want to try foods that gross me out and scare the crap out of me.

I want to get on a plane and not know where that plane is headed. I want to know that I always tried, that I always put forth the effort and that I never backed down from a challenge.

And most of all, I want each day to have a new and different sun.

Where do I see myself in five years? Where do I see myself in ten years? Happily travelling the world, sharing stories of people and culture, places and faces, showcasing the unknown, the overlooked and the forgotten about. And, most of all, hopefully instilling a whole lot of wanderlust in everyone that I meet.

I hope that you’ll join me for the ride. And perhaps a cheap flight or two hundred along the way.

Working on the story of my latest adventure right now.

Repeat after me: You can do this.

If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.

Rachel Wolchin

Solo travel: where to start.

‘Why don’t you take someone with you?’ I was asked.

Truthfully, I just want to feel empowered with myself. Like I don’t have to rely on the likes of someone else to feel happy, or safe, or secure. I just want to know that I am enough to keep myself company, to keep myself occupied and to make myself smile.

Solo travel is an intimidating thought.

Honest truth: I don’t believe in myself. At least, not right now. It sucks to admit that, but it’s true. I rely on other people for validation and that scares me.

One of the reasons why I am going to do this trip alone is that I want to face the challenges it presents on my own. I want to see if I am capable of looking after myself. Because if I am being fully honest with myself today, I’m scared. I’m scared that I can’t do it. That’s why I am going to do it though. I need to do this in order to know whether or not I am capable.

I want to believe in myself again. Will I get that belief out of one solo-trip? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s a start. And everyone has got to start somewhere.

Wish me luck!

When life hands you lemons…


Something happened this week that I was not expecting.

See, I’ve been afraid to tell anyone of my upcoming trip because I feared judgement for booking a plane ticket when I don’t have a steady stream of income. If there’s one thing I’m certain of in my life, it’s that the people around me can be extremely judgmental. And, though I know it comes from a place of love, it still comes… at times being really hard to deal with.

Moral of the story is that I didn’t want to be made to feel badly for doing something for myself.

I kept waiting for the right moment in which to break the news and continued to find excuses as to why it was never the right moment. As my date of departure draws closer, I knew the news needed to come out soon otherwise people would notice when I disappeared for multiple days.

Then, out of the blue, I was invited to an event this weekend. Knowing right then and there my time was up, I faced the music and admitted that I was headed on a trip. What I did not expect was the gracious and kind responses I received in acknowledgement of my trip.

They were kind. So kind. Telling me things like ‘Good for you! You deserve this’ and ‘I’m so happy that you’re doing something for yourself’. One of them even offered me money to help pay for the trip. To be honest, I was quite shaken by these responses. Happy, but shocked. I guess it goes to show though, as much as you think you might know someone, people can always surprise you.

That’s a huge weight off my back leading up to my trip. As much as I want to believe that the only opinion that matters is my own, the opinion of those that I love still plays a large role in my life. And I can now leave on Saturday knowing that the people in my life are supportive of my decision, my mom will be looked after, and the wanderlust in my soul can be fulfilled, at least for a few days.

When life hands you lemons, buy a plane ticket. Go somewhere that’ll make you happy, that’ll make you smile and that’ll set your soul on fire. You deserve it, damn it. Take advantage of the here and now and just go.

Smooth transition into a new topic:

On the recommendation from followers on this blog, I purchased some Apple Cider Vinegar last week in hopes that it would help with my adult acne. Though I’ve only been taking it for one week now, I have to say that I have noticed a difference in my skin. My acne has always been the large painful, red, blotchy sores around my lips/lower cheeks and chin area. Over the past week these spots have transitioned into much smaller, less swollen spots on my face. It’s not gone, no. The spots will be there for a long time, I am sure. But it’s nice to see some improvement in my skin. It makes me feel better about my appearance, even just in the small changes happening.

So, thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for leaving a comment, thank you for being kind and thoughtful and helpful.

I bought a plane ticket.

That’s right, I did it. After weeks of humming and hawing about it, trying to talk myself out of it, telling myself that I shouldn’t be spending the money right now, etc, etc… I pulled the trigger and I bought a ticket.

It’s definitely not an exotic locale, but what matters to me is that it is somewhere that will make me happy. And I really need something to smile about right now.

I’ve been afraid to tell people about it, because I don’t wan them to lecture me on spending my money in a frivolous manner when I don’t have a steady flow of income right now. I’m not sure how I’m going to break the news, but, I will do it.

Yesterday, as I sat in bed reading one of my favourite books of all time, I made it to the chapter that has stood out in my mind since I first read it as a teenager. The quote, as follows:

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

And I thought ‘I’m not waiting any longer’. So I did it. I went online, I booked the tickets, and I’m going.

It’ll be a short trip. Nothing in life lasts forever, I know that. And, in spite of the fact that it might seem rather reckless to book a trip when you don’t have a steady stream of income coming in, I’m not stupid when it comes to money. I know how to save, where to spend, how to choose the cheaper options. I’m going to be smart about this, of course. But I’m also going to live my life.

Life should be adventure, and, when it really comes down to it, I’d rather be the person that says ‘I’ve been there and it was amazing’ than the person who says ‘I’ve always wanted to go’.